Democrats vow to restore college aid by Mitch E. Perry


President Bush’s budget for the fiscal year 2007 cuts student aid by $1.2 billion and eliminates a number of programs that encourage individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter and complete college. In addition, the budget cuts the Perkins Loan program that offers low interest loans to almost one million students.

Today on a national conference call, 2 Democrats say they want to stem these cuts. Northern California Democratic Representative George Miller, announced new legislation that would cut in half the interest rates on student loans, from 6.8%, to 3.4% (roll tape#1 o.q.�with their legislation�)

A companion bill to Miller’s in the Senate is being sponsored by Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durban (roll tape#2 o.q.�they can’t understand how this could happen�)

Last month, the Senate DID pass an amendment to restore $7 billion in funding to education and health programs.

Over the past 5 years, tuitions and fees at public 4 year colleges have increased by as much as 40% , as many states cut funding for colleges and universities…this came while record numbers of students applied to, and enrolled in colleges all across the country.

Meanwhile, over the same five-year period, the maximum Pell Grant has increased only 10%, with no increases in the maximum grant during the last five federal budgets.

But does the Durban/Miller bill do enough to help students pay for college? Cutting the debt on student loans is nice, one reporter asked, but what about bringing down the cost of tuition?

Democrat George Miller, who represents a District northeast of Berkeley in the San Francisco Bay Area, said those attempts went by the wayside (roll tape#3 o.q.�public institutions�)

Activist Robert Borosage, from the group The Campaign for America’s Future, says that there is now a critical mass of support to get the word out about these budget cuts for student aid (roll tape#4 o.q.�once people hear about it�)

Borosage says groups like Reverse the Raid on Student Aid, Rock the Vote, various Public Interest Research groups, and even some unions are starting to coalesce around the issue.

As to whether they can get this bill passed, Ilinois Senator Dick Durban says with the Republicans reeling in the polls, there is a better chance than anytime recently (roll tape#5 o.q.�in that direction�)

As to why tuition has gotten out of hand lately, both lawmakers said that many state run universities get funding from the states – and many if not most of those states have had serious budget problems recently, preventing more money to go into student aid.

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